Thinking about going to Bali? How do you know if it is the right place for your next trip?
Here is our guide of what’s great and what’s not great about Bali. These are our honest opinions and insights to help make your mind up.
- A fantastic place for travel beginners
- Great honeymoon location
- Easy to find cheap flights from around the world
- Cheap – though not the cheapest in that part of the world.
- Good combination of culture, nature and beach tourism
- Balinese people are genuinely friendly
- It is a crowded tourism machine
- There are cheaper places in south-east Asia, if budget is the number 1 priority
- Consider avoiding wet season if relaxing on the beach is the goal
- The food is not the most mind-blowing in south-east Asia. Some (or most) of the best food on the island, will not be Balinese.
The advantages of Bali…
Bali is a fantastic place for travel beginners
You have travelled, but have you ventured thousands of miles to a south-east Asian tropical island? Have you been to a place with a foreign language, custom, roads and foods? Travelling is great for exactly this reason, but it will push you out of your comfort zone.
Bali is a rather perfect place for travel beginners because along with being a tropical paradise it is a well-established tourist spot. It offers copious hotels, restaurants, cafés, taxis, tours, activities and beaches. You will have plenty of choice to suit your needs and expectations.
Almost everyone knows enough English to help with what you need. Unless you make a very deliberate effort to go off track, you will not be stranded and confused. You can try exotic, spicy foods, but fall back on pizza and burgers available just about anywhere if your palate is not yet primed for the nomadic way of eating.
It is easy to go from having never stepped foot in Asia, to hopping from mountains to rice paddies, like you are a true world traveller.
Bali is a great honeymoon location
Bali is a great place for a honeymoon because is the postcard paradise location that will never forgotten. It has true natural beauty as an island. There is a great choice of hotels that will suit any budget. It offers luxury and adventure in one package.
If your idea of a perfect honeymoon location is being able to relax on the beach, create memories and try new things – Bali is ideal. Although don’t expect a secluded paradise without noise and crowds. If that is what you are looking for – we would not recommend Bali. If seclusion and privacy is a priority then you should be looking at much smaller niche locations. The simple fact is that Bali is a tourism powerhouse, not an undiscovered gem.
Bali has easy to find, cheap flights
Bali has the mega Denpasar airport with a huge number of direct flights all over the world. This is important cutting down travel times because fewer connections are required: the more flight connections, the longer the journey.
This is great for those 9-5 people, like us, who need to take time off work and make every moment count. Although perhaps not such a priority for digital nomads who can work from their laptop in an airport café.
But more direct flights means better prices, and that’s important for everyone.
Bali is cheap
Hotels in Bali are plenty, suitable for any budget in any of its hotspot locations. This is great because the higher the competition for hotels, (generally) the lower the price. As mentioned – flights to Bali can often be cheaper because of the availability of direct flights.
But another essential consideration for the budget is how much you spend when you get there. How much money do you need to spend in Bali?
This depends on what you do (obviously), but we can confirm that Bali is certainly cheaper than pretty much anywhere in Europe and North America when it comes to daily spending.
The average cost of a meal in Bali is around 100,000 IDR per person – just over 7 US dollars or 6.5 euros. Half this for a cheaper cafe, double this for a more upmarket restaurant. If you were to eat out at restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Europe or North America it would cost twice as much as Bali – as a rough estimate. As with anything in Bali though, there are options for every budget higher or lower than these numbers.
There is a good combination of beaches, culture and nature
As mentioned, Bali is the full package for people who want to both relax on the beach as well as having a cultural experience. Although famed for its natural beauty, tropical fruits and surfing, there is a lot to see and do in Bali that is not always found in the typical tourist hotspot.
Bali has a unique cultural heritage centred around the form of Hindu faith dominant in Balinese people’s lives. The religious temples, traditions and philosophy of the Balinese people is a real part of the reason for the islands popularity.
The disadvantages of Bali…
Bali is crowded
All of these great things about Bali invariably makes it a popular destination, and the number of tourists visiting Bali on a yearly basis (over 6 million) has exceeded the resident population of Bali (4.4 million at the last census).
There is indeed a trade-off of being a great destination for travel beginners: it is a tourism machine. It is commercialised and driven by foreign investment. Whilst Ubud is a fantastic hub for the arts and spiritual scene, it is rather void of Balinese culture. Instead, like much of Bali, it has grown with and for the global traveller’s needs and expectations.
There are tourists everywhere. At times it can be difficult to find any local business that isn’t charging foreign rates for tourist products. Most famous spots and attractions have long queues. Tourism is the main (and perhaps the only) source of income on the island and the experience can feel like being on a conveyor belt at times. If it is an undiscovered jewel in a secluded part of the planet you are expecting, you might be disappointed.
It’s cheap, but there are cheaper
The Indonesian currency affords travellers the luxury of spending lavishly on food and drink at cheaper prices than those found in more developed countries. Hotels, eating and daily spending is discussed in detail on this site for those interested. [Link]
The key thing is, however, that if budget is the primary consideration – there are definitely cheaper places in Asia. Although it is quite possible to spend little and live cheaply in Bali, most experiences can be more expensive than other Indonesian islands or south east Asian countries.
The season needs to be considered
The beauty of a tropical climate is that you are guaranteed to never need a winter coat. A raincoat on the other hand is a completely different topic.
The time to visit Bali, like all tropical locations, needs to be considered based on your needs and wants. The dry season runs from April to September. You will experience hot days and wet days no matter which season you visit. The difference is however a matter of proportion– what proportion of days will be hot and wet. In terms enjoying the nature, beaches and water sports we certainly recommend dry season.
If you have specific dates that you need to visit – you might indeed be better off with a different tropical location with better weather and save your trip to Bali for different months.
The food is not mind-blowing
This topic is controversial, people will have differing opinions. We discuss this elsewhere in detail on the blog. There is great food in Bali, but when compared to its mighty neighbouring islands and countries, the food in Bali is rather underwhelming.
This is certainly not a reason to discount Bali by any means. But if the culinary experience is one of the reasons you are basing your travels on, the lowdown is that Balinese food is quite simple and the classical dishes can be sampled within a few days. Conversely, in Thailand for example, it would take weeks to say you have a grasp on the cuisine, because there is simply so much variety and cooking heritage.
You will eat great food from other cultures imported onto the island, but that could probably be done in any major developed country. This relates to the point that Bali as an island has developed largely into a tourism machine which caters to international taste.